How I Created a Tropical Style Garden on the Canadian Prairie

North West Garden
I'm a tropical girl.  And as a tropical girl, I must have a tropical garden, surrounding a 1-story plantation-style house, in Hawai'i.  Of course.

Well, I don't live in Hawai'i, my house is a 2-story Tudor style stucco'd monstrosity, and I'm in the Great White North that is Zone 3.  That Canadian city that in 2013 was reported to be colder than the surface of Mars?  Yeah, that's this place.

Anyone in their right mind would say "screw it", throw their garden dreams out the window, and plant daisies, tall prairie grass, and purple coneflowers as far as the eye can see... or at least until the edge of their property line.

However, since I'm EXTREMELY stubborn, and not entirely in my right mind, I didn't do any of that.
Instead, ...

Characteristics of a Tropical Garden

... I scoured through some of my old photos from my grandmother's home in The Philippines as well as from the time that I lived in Hawai'i, looking for things that made the background flora different.  Common traits became obvious...

1:  Large leaves
- We don't have the climate for palm trees.  But we have the climate for other larger leaved plants... the larger the leaves, the better.

2:  Large, brightly coloured flowers
- We're talking flowers similar to roses.  Large roundish petals.  Wavy petals.  The showier and more brazen the flowers, the better.  Yes, brazen -- have you seen Bearded Irises?  Hello, slutty flower.
Avoid daisies and the like.  They are too pure and innocent.

3:  Spiky leaves, ferns, and grasses
- When flowers die off, the tropical garden maintains excitement in a different, less suggestive way.  Textures and contrasts on the greenery left behind is just as interesting.

4:  Variegated leaves
- Just step into any gardening store and you'll find a surprising variety of plants with beautiful colours in stripes, streaks, and patches.  My favourite is yellow-green... almost neon.  I also have 3 purple leaved plants in the very front whose name I don't remember, but they're a beautiful contrast to the green.

5:  Dense foliage
- The plants are packed close together.  Super crowded and lush.

Choosing Plants

Next, I consulted the magic knowledge box Google and searched for plants that fit the above description and...

1) Were perennials in Zone 3.
- Annuals need to be shopped for at the beginning of the growing season, and cleaned up or brought into the home afterward.  I don't want to have to spend any money if I don't have to.
Plants magically appear in the Spring?!  Fine by me!  Yay, perennials!

2)  Could thrive in partial shade.
- The 2-story Tudor style stucco'd monstrosity that is my home casts a big shadow on my poor north-facing gardens for a good portion of the day.

3)  Were able to handle dryness.
- I'm a low-maintenance kind of gal.  Sometimes I don't get around to watering.  I've come to accept that.

I found all the plants I needed!  And now my gardening is so simple.

Front Window Garden
Plants I Used in My Garden

1:  Large leaves...
- Bergenia, Hosta (various)

2:  Large brightly coloured flowers...
- Peony, Daylilies (various), Irises

3:  Spiky leaves and grasses
- Ferns, Irises, Daylilies (various)

4:  Variegated leaves
- Hosta (various), Lemony Lace Elderberry (the yellow-green bush), unnamed purple-leaved plant.

My Garden History

Because sometimes you need to look like a disaster first, here's a peek into what my garden looked like over the years...
I Heart My Frontyard Garden
I Heart My Frontyard Garden June 2008
More Confessions of a Happy Girl 

As you can see, you don't need tropical plants or a tropical climate to have a tropical garden.
Okay, so it's not Hawai'i or the Philippines, but it actually makes me feel like I'm there.
Try it yourself, and share your pics in the comments if you do!

It's Aloha Friday!


When I lived in Hawai'i, I really enjoyed Fridays. People all over the Islands put on their best Aloha shirts, dresses, and muu-muus, beautiful flower leis, and hair flowers (left side for married/taken/unavailable, right side for singles), and of course, in every store and establishment, you hear the fun-loving rendition of "It's Aloha Friday - No Work Till Monday...."
It's a celebration of the Spirit of Aloha, Hawaiian culture, and the end of the workweek.

Here in Sarongville, It's Aloha Friday! is a compilation of awesome randomness I've come across online or IRL throughout the week.  It's our way of celebrating the arrival of the weekend.  Enjoy!

1:  I'm teaching hula dance classes again this summer!  More details to come.  If you're in Winnipeg, you don't want to miss it!  Meanwhile, if you want to get to know me as a hula instructor and the style of hula I teach, head over here.

2:  Thank you, Apartment Therapy, for this list of things that need to leave my kitchen!  Unfortunately, every time I get rid of anything baby (#29), my period decides to come late.  I may have to keep the baby utensils as a form of birth control.  No, not literally.  Ew.

3:  I took my daughter to watch Wonder Woman.  Okay, don't get mad at me, but unlike the rest of humanity, I was not moved by it.  I loved the first half of the movie.  A super super lot.  Princess Buttercup kicking ass was my fave.  The second half was only okay.  Gal and Chris didn't have the best chemistry.  And I kept thinking "He's Kirk.  He's James T. Kirk.  This is wrong."  And really, a mustached god?  It just felt so, so strange.

4:  I tried to quit coffee this week for the 124325th time.  I failed. The Man taking up coffee again after 25 years did not help.

5:  These Doomsday Maps of the World are equally frightening and fascinating.

6:  I need to get What are we even doing with our lives: The most honest children's book of all time.  It's like Phoebe in book form!  It's a satirical "children's" book depicting an authentic fictional world that illuminates the funny, silly, earnest experience of millennial life.  (Pre-order through the link for a release date of August 8, 2017.)


7:  I'm a mom to teens.  They are fun and silly.  Have you read post from my old blog?  Yeah, like that.  But you'd think they'd matured and not have fights about who's taking more room on the couch, and not have situations that end up like...

Me: "What smells like fresh laundry?"
Miranda: "Me!  Luc sprayed me with Febreeze!"

OMG, really, children?!

5 Reasons Why Polynesian Dance is a Fantastic Workout

"I've lost 5 pounds in 3 weeks, and the only thing I've done is taken hula classes!", "The waistband of my jeans is getting looser!", and "Yeah, one more tahitian ote'a! I can take it! Woohoo!"

Okay, maybe that last one was a bit of an exaggeration - most of my students considered the ote'a a form of torture - but hula and tahitian dance fitness stories really are quite common, and as a Polynesian dance instructor & dancer, I've heard and witnessed many of them firsthand. In fact, I credit my hula & tahitian practice with aiding my own weight loss in 2006.


Even Flare Magazine featured hula dance - along with an interview with me as their hula expert - for their September 2005 Issue dance fitness article Shall We Dance: Wake up your workout...!

Yes, the Polynesian Dance is much more than just a pleasure to watch. Don't let the gentle, fluid movements deceive you. It truly is a killer workout!

Here are 5 reasons why your health could benefit from daily island dance:

1: It builds beautiful lean muscles.
A common complaint from my new students after the first class is "My muscles were SO sore after that class!" Yes, it takes muscles to move those arms and hands to tell a story! You will feel soreness in the upper arms (deltoids), and depending on how deeply you bend your knees for each kaholo (the popular basic side-to-side traveling hula movement), you'll also give your core and lower body a blast.

2: It packs a great cardiovascular punch.
My dancers are always amazed at how out-of-breath they are after a 30 minute show! Make your own half hour hula dance CD and burn 279 calories every workout... double that if you mix in some short blasts of fast tahitian ote'a (each song is about 1.5 minutes of intense hip shakes).And you get that all without the joint-jarring common with other high-impact workouts.
For my own workout, I created a high-intensity interval training hula CD for myself by putting in an ote'a song after every 2 hula songs. Just 20 minutes of that, and I'm done!

3: It's a weight-bearing, bone-building activity.
The continual kaholo is just like walking, and one of the many health benefits of walking is its ability to turn around rapid bone loss that occurs in menopausal women.  This is one of the simplistic examples, but you catch my drift.


4: It helps build grace and coordination.
Hula makes you use muscles that most likely have never been used in combination before. Many of us call it waking your hula muscles.  With every part of your body doing something different, many times in opposite directions, you'll find your coordination and balance challenged and strengthened.
This is fantastic for the brain as it builds new connections.

5: It's fun!
Your hula workout can be as varied as the numerous hula songs out there! Mixing it up with tahitian numbers, dancing with friends, and even performing for loved ones offers options that can make your hula workout unique every time!

So, after all of that, you're dying to try it, right?

Well, if you live in Winnipeg, you're in luck!  I'll be teaching a hula series this summer!
Stay tuned here for the official announcement as soon as I nail down a location...
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